Texas Coastal Cruising Mud Island to Matagorda Harbor Marina

Mud Island to Matagorda Harbor The Foster At Anchor on SV Cadence

The Texas coast – a place of natural beauty, commercial shipping, wildlife, and nature’s power. Sailing the intracoastal waterway (ICW) comes with its own challenges, but it’s an excellent way to see the beauty and experience the joys of the Texas Coastline. Here’s a video and blog about the ICW from Mud Island to Matagorda Harbor Marina.

Mud Island Near Port Aransas

We stayed on the north side of the island to take advantage of a lee shore with a south wind. The night’s rest was lovely with calm waters and the soothing sounds of nature.

There’s plenty of shoreline for dinghy fun, and the water is clean with dolphins swimming up to your boat!

SV Cadence at Anchor Near Mud Island, TX

It was winter when we went, so we didn’t have the chance to walk the dinghy to shore – the waters near shore were 10-20 inches deep.

A quick 1.5 hour sail from Port Aransas to Mud Island.
A quick 1.5 hour sail from Port Aransas to Mud Island.

I’d love to head back near summer and do a little swimming, beaching, and fishing.

Here’s a fishing report:

The Mud Island area offers a multitude of fishing opportunities and options for different wind conditions. To the north, the outside of the island creates the southern shoreline of Aransas bay. This grass shoreline with sandy pot holes and drop-offs to the bay hold good populations of redfish and trout year round. 
Coastal Bend Fishing

Aransas Bay to Matagorda Bay

We love Aransas Bay as it always seems to have a favorable wind for sailing, and you can venture from the ICW channel markers to grab the perfect wind angle.

The western side, the first half of the bay coming from Port Aransas is protected from north winds. It also will make for a good anchorage if you need shelter from northers. Just look for the coastline (and a marina) near Rockport.

Aransas Bay from space

As you continue eastbound, the bay opens up near the bridge. With a north wind, you’ll easily find 20 knots of wind for brick close reaching.

After leaving Aransas Bay, you’ll sail (or motor) through several lengths of protected waters. This means a shoreline will be on each side of you with 300-600 feet of waterway width.

After a shallow San Antonio bay, you’ll close in on Port O’Connor. Which doesn’t have marinas for sailboats, but you can anchor on the lee shore of the barrier islands of Matagorda Bay or find a safe overnight in the northwest end of Matagorda Bay. We’ve done neither.

Instead, we usually reach Matagorda Bay near midday and prepare for 3-4 hours of open bay travel.

Matagorda Bay

It’s big. And long. At 422 square miles, you’ll spend hours crossing this bay, so be sure to leave yourself plenty of time before night fall.

The famous French explorer La Salle entered Matagorda Bay in 1684, but as par with Texas bays, they ran aground. Much of the bay is shallow. Here’s Theodore Gudin’s painting of La Salle’s entrance into Matagorda Bay, 1684…including the grounding of his ships.

By Theodore Gudin Public Domain Use on Wikipedia

However, 7-12 foot waters are found on the long west-east stretch of ICW when crossing Matagorda Bay.

We’ve sailed in 24 knots of wind (with 2-3 foot of steep chop) south of the channel markers safely with our 5 foot keel.

ICW Locks and Matagorda Harbor

When travelling eastbound, you’ll find a simple, yet lovely harbor and marina upstream of the Colorado River locks. These locks control water flow and traffic on the ICW and the Colorado River.

We’ve traversed these locks once in the dark and once at day. They’re simple to navigate though the waterflow can be 2-4 knots, so get your engine ready!

Sailing in the ICW Near Matagorda Bay Texas - SV Cadence
Sailing in the ICW Near Matagorda Bay Texas

Also, anchoring near the locks in case of a closure is difficult, though we managed for 4 hours near the west locks.

We highly recommend Matagorda Harbor Marina for affordability, a restaurant (that closes early), and for wind protection. There is gas and diesel, but be ready to use cans (via dinghy or by land) if you draft more than 5 feet.

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